Tuesday, October 23

Flick's Top Five Reasons Why Vinyl Will Outlive CDs

Flick from Puddlegum recently listed his top five reasons for why vinyl will outlive CDs. To summarize:

1. Vinyl has outlived every other physical music medium.
2. CDs will soon be abandoned.
3. Digital downloads are being packaged with purchases of vinyl.
4. Album collectors tend to prefer vinyl over every other physical format.
5. Consumers view music as something they access, not own.

With the recent resurgence of all things analog (see boutique Polaroid film production, limited-run 7" singles, etc.), plus the dedication of audiophiles to the vinyl format, I think Flick's on to something here. My favorite point he makes is #3. I first encountered this when I picked up The Clientele's Strange Geometry on wax only to discover that Merge generously included a download of the whole album. I've only seen this on indie labels, and it certainly behooves them to do it. (I know this would be standard practice if I ran a label).

There's also much to be said about #2. Although I have known some fanatical CD collectors, many people are moving to memory-based systems (internal/external hard drives, flash, iPods, etc.) and away from keeping tons of CDs on a shelf. As attached as I am to my CDs, I will never get rid of them. But, I have a plan to transfer them in a loseless format to an iMac and box most of them away.

Vinyl, on the other hand, is something that should be displayed and accessible. After all, the ritual of selecting an album, finding it, removing it, dropping it on the platter, and waiting for the needle to hit cannot be replicated if your albums are crated away. Not only is this process fun, but it make the selection more careful, and I'm much more likely to finish a whole song, side, or album if it's on my record player (and not susceptible to random access, as cool as it may be sometimes).

And there are some albums that are simply a better experience on vinyl. While Papa M's Live From A Shark Cage is one of the few modern albums to be analog from recording to mastering to manufacturing, there are many albums that just feel so much better coming from a turntable. (See works by: Madlib, The Avalanches, The Beatles, Beck (One Foot In The Grave), The Clientele and most dub, reggae, Chopin's Nocturnes, etc.)

There are other considerations. Although many DJs have switched to digital decks, there are some who will never make that change. A related point involves hip-hop: I can't imagine that hip-hop as we know it can survive without the vinyl format. And in the audiophile world, many serious listeners swear only by vinyl. The number of turntable manufacturers out there -- plus the range of prices of those products, from $49 to $49,000 -- indicate that plenty of people are still interested in actually playing records.

Flick's final point -- that consumers view music as something they access, not own -- is complicated and fascinating. There are certainly generational aspects to this. I was right in the middle of college when Napster first got going. Nonetheless, there are plenty of people, and there will only be more of them, that have rarely or never actually bought a CD but have only downloaded or shared music online. That generation views music as something one accesses to possess, but not something one owns. The stake in the content is minimal since it can be replaced at no cost at any time. But, even though vinyl really does weigh a ton, there will always be a dedicated splinter of the music community that is serious about owning their music and having it forever.

One other thing: I'm certain Funky Sole wouldn't be the same if the musical source wasn't vinyl...

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Great post. Can't wait to come by your place and drop a quarter in the 7" jukebox.a